Actions

Work Header

No Longer Hearing Voices

Chapter Text

The Master was putting the final tier onto a house constructed from Top Secret folders when his assistant called to let him know that a Doctor John Smith, scientific advisor to UNIT, was waiting for him in the lobby. Rather redundantly, the Master glanced at the small loose-leaf calendar on the top of his desk. The election and the subsequent activation of the paradox machine were still five months away. He felt for the Archangel network and found it running at full capacity. Interesting.

He’d been having one of his good days. His hands didn’t shake and the house of folders was, consequently, five stories high. The Doctor had arrived on Earth some time before six in the morning and it was now late in the afternoon, which meant that the Master had woken up with the Doctor’s presence already brushing his mind and had spent the rest of the day calmed by the knowledge that he was still there.

In the thirteen months the Master had spent in London pretending to be Harold Saxon, the Doctor had materialised and dematerialised in the time stream on ninety-four separate occasions and the days when he did so were always more bearable. But he had never come to call before.

The Master chewed his lip thoughtfully. He had planned to remain hidden until he’d successfully become Prime Minister and there was no way the Doctor could interfere with the election. In fact, it should have been actively impossible for the Doctor to sense him before that, never mind his plan, but, as the Master well knew, it was futile to use words like ‘should’ and ‘impossible’ when talking about the Doctor. It was, of course, that which made him so fascinating.

Feeling a familiar twinge of excitement in his stomach, he pressed the red intercom button and inquired, perfunctorily, whether Doctor Smith had called ahead to make an appointment. He was told no, but that Smith was willing to wait or return on another day that was more convenient.

“No,” the Master said. “I don’t think that’s necessary. Please, send him up.”

He stood, straightened his tie in the mirror next to the hat stand, paced, and then sat down again. He pressed the intercom button. “One more thing. What does Doctor Smith look like?’

“Er,” the assistant said, clearly caught off guard, “well, he’s… very young, can’t be more than 35, blonde, and he looks like he’s just come back from playing cricket. I asked if he was on his way to a fancy dress party, but apparently-”

The Master released the intercom again and drummed his fingers against the wooden desktop. The folder-house collapsed, but he didn’t bother to collect the scattered files.

He’d been expecting either the bouncy tenth incarnation, or another version of the Doctor he had yet to meet, assuming either man would be trying to prevent his current conquest of Earth. It had always been possible, though, that one of the previous Doctors, with no idea of Harold Saxon’s real identity, might decide to visit the new Defence Minister. The Archangel network had been calibrated with this eventuality in mind and the Master was not unduly worried that the Doctor would see through his disguise, just ever so slightly disappointed. He was going to win so easily this time. How boring.

On the other hand, the Doctor’s fifth body was one of his favourites, partially because he’d had a hand in the regeneration and partially because the fifth Doctor always tasted faintly of the lemon he took with his tea and looked like a choirboy waiting to be ravaged. In fact, the Master had personally had the pleasure of ravaging him twice before and he knew this Doctor made delicious incoherent whimpering sounds as he came. Unfortunately, if he was going to be forced to play Harold Saxon there would be no opportunity to repeat the experience today. The pleasure of having another Time Lord - of having the Doctor - so close by and completely oblivious as the Master smiled and lied to him would have to do when no others were to be had.

There was a knock and the Master walked around his desk, paused to inspect himself in the mirror a final time, and opened the door. The Doctor stood tantalisingly close, within touching distance: young and blonde and, as usual, dressed in clothes entirely inappropriate to the time or place. His hands were behind his back and he appeared to be examining one of the ugly prints on the corridor wall with great interest, despite having knocked seconds before.

The Master gave a discreet cough and, when the Doctor looked up, flashed his most dazzling Harold Saxon grin.

“The famous Doctor Smith, I presume,” he said, holding out his hand. “You have no idea how excited I am to meet you at last.’

“Oh, I don’t know, Master,” the Doctor said, smiling and shaking the offered hand. “I think I have a vague idea. You’re looking very young this time, and it seems I was right: no rubbish beard. It suits you. Do you mind if I come in?”

The Master grinned more broadly and stood aside to let him pass. “Please, Doctor: be my guest.”

“Thank you. I’d be delighted.”

The Master shut and locked the door whilst the Doctor removed his coat and hat and hung them next to the Master’s black overcoat. He sat down in the visitor’s chair, legs crossed, and waited politely as the Master selected two glasses from the drinks’ cabinet and filled them both with scotch. Their eyes met briefly as the Doctor accepted his drink and nodded his thanks, but neither said anything until the Master was seated in his own chair, his glass resting on a black government-issue coaster.

“So,” he said pleasantly over steepled fingers. “How did you find me?”

The Doctor sipped his scotch, grimacing a little at the unfamiliar alcohol. “I wasn’t aware you were in hiding. If you are, you’re doing an awful job of it. Tell me, does everyone in the world know who you are, or is it just this country?”

“Just the country,” the Master said. He gave a feline grin. “For the moment. I’ve got plans to go worldwide soon, but, for now, I’m making a name for myself here. They’re calling me “Britain’s New Hope” in the papers. Kind of sweet. Very Star Wars, too: I thought you’d like that. England absolutely adores me.

“Oh, don’t worry,” he added, as the Doctor rolled his eyes, “I won’t let it go to my head. And this isn’t one of my schemes either. I’m just trying to do my bit for a country I’ve hurt so much, and so often, in the past.”

The Doctor gave him a stern look, which made the Master laugh. “You don’t believe me.”

“No, obviously not,” the Doctor said.

“Just as I don’t believe you took the time out of any of your little jaunts to take notice of one measly politician. Someone told you I was here, didn’t they? Someone from your future.” He frowned with faux-severity. “Now, Doctor, tell your Master the truth. You’ve been breaking the laws of space and time again, haven’t you?”

“Not deliberately,” the Doctor said defensively, as the Master tutted. “I had a run in with one of my future selves late yesterday evening. Quite literally, actually. Our TARDISes collided and the universe almost exploded before he got things under control.”

The Master raised his eyebrows in surprise - not at the Doctor almost causing the destruction of the universe, that was fairly typical, but he remembered meeting a future self, which was not. The Master had met himself on several occasions. They’d gone drinking, tried to take over planets, and even had the odd awkward shag if one or both of them was feeling particularly dejected, but he’d only ever remembered these meetings after the oldest version of himself had left the younger one behind.

Rassilon’s laws were very clear on the subject of meeting one’s former self: you didn’t. It was stupid and dangerous and no right-minded Time Lord would ever dream of disrupting their personal time line.

Of course, like all laws, it could be bent - the Master was living proof of that - but it couldn’t be entirely broken, which the Master secretly considered no bad thing. Previous selves couldn’t possibly have access to spoilers from their own future or they would act on them and then never become the version of themselves who had given the warning. The resulting paradox would cause the universe to shatter right across space and time and a quick fumble with yourself in a dark alley was hardly worth that. So the Time Lords made you forget. Or, at least, they had done when they were alive.

The Master tapped his glass against his lips. “It was definitely a future you? Not just the ‘I’m you with a new face and I have an important message from the future’ gag?” He grinned. “I love that one.”

“After what happened the last time, I don’t think I’m very likely to fall for that again, do you?”

“Oh,” the Master pouted. “How disappointing.”

“Yes, well, I’m sure you’ll recover eventually,” the Doctor said. “My future self told me you were still alive in his time line, or, at least, that you had been recently. When our TARDISes separated, my TARDIS retained some of the data from his. Not a great deal, but, for some reason, it remembered you quite vividly, Master.”

“And so you sought me out for a little chat? How touching.”

The Doctor gave a quick, worried smile. “No, not quite. I’m looking for information.” He un-crossed his legs and then re-crossed them in the alternate arrangement. “I remember meeting my future self, something we both know Rassilon would never allow. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but I think something has happened to the Time Lords, in your past and my future. Am I on the right lines?”

“Perhaps,” the Master agreed.

The Doctor blanched. “How-”

“I wasn’t actually there,” the Master said, swirling his drink and downing it. “I can’t tell you what happened, exactly. But, as you say, Gallifrey is missing. Either that or they’ve finally found a way to hide themselves from me, but I don’t think so. That would actually be quite sensible, so not really their style. No, I think they’ve gone and now-” He paused.

How to describe the awful silence and its effect without provoking a look of disgusting sympathy on the Doctor’s pale face? How to describe the sense of miserable abandonment, which made him feel faint and useless, constantly on the verge of throwing up or passing out?

The absence of the Time Lords had left a vacuum in which the drums, which he’d carried all his life but hardly noticed, beat on and on with nothing to dampen them so that he hardly slept except on the days the Doctor walked the Earth and his comforting presence murmured around the Master’s thoughts. How to describe that?

The only analogy that sprang to mind was that it was like waking up with the worst hangover of your life, completely bankrupt having spent all your money on alcohol the night before because the person you loved most in the universe had just told you that they never wanted to see you again and meant it. It was like that, but every single second of every single torturous day. You could walk and talk if necessary, you could just about carry on, but you only did so because the alternative was worse.

Given that his intention was to prevent the Doctor feeling sorry for him, rather than remind him of the more embarrassing parts of their shared history, that particular analogy was not exactly helpful.

“Time is empty,” the Master said eventually. “Just empty. Completely empty.” He leant forward, fingers tapping out their constant rhythm. “And you can feel it, can you? The blankness. Nothing at all stretching out forever in both directions. Can you feel that?”

“Sometimes,” the Doctor said, his fingers worrying at the sleeve of his jumper. “I’m fairly sure I felt it when I was in his TARDIS, but I didn’t know I was supposed to be on the look out for anything. Now, with you, I’m consciously operating in your time line as well as mine, which makes a difference obviously. In my time, I can feel thousands of Time Lords gossiping and bickering, so many it sometimes makes it difficult to locate my own thoughts among them.”

“And in mine?”

“Nothing,” the Doctor said seriously, “except you, and even that’s extremely faint. I wouldn’t have noticed you if I hadn’t known where to look. As you said, time is empty and I don’t like it at all.”

The Master grinned. “Crazy, isn‘t it?” he said, and pushed off against the leg of the desk, setting his chair spinning in a lazy circle. “Who’d’ve thought I’d miss all those old wind bags cluttering up my mind?” He caught the desk leg again with his foot and stopped, facing the Doctor. “Oh well, can’t be helped. Down to business: you want a favour.”

“I’m afraid I do,” the Doctor said. “I wouldn’t ask, but I can’t think of an alternative, which, as you know, is saying something.”

He leant forward - elbows resting on his knees, hands clasped together - and frowned. “At the moment, I have knowledge of my future, of Gallifrey’s future, that I can’t possibly have. This information must be temporarily erased from my consciousness by a Time Lord who survives the cataclysmic event in our future. I can’t begin to comprehend what that might have been and I really don't want to. I can only focus on getting my present fixed.

“Now, I can’t tamper with my own memory for obvious reasons, and, unfortunately, you’re the only other survivor I’m sure of, Master. With that being the case, I need you to block out any and all memories that might stop me becoming the self I met. Ideally, pretty quickly. Within the hour, maybe.”

The Master laughed. “And you think I’m just going to… do that, do you? Out of the goodness of my hearts?”

“Well, you’d be preventing the universe from collapsing in on itself,” the Doctor pointed out. “I’d have thought that would be a reasonably strong incentive, even for you.”

“Frankly, at this point, I’d be happy to see it collapse and good riddance,” the Master said. “But, even if I felt like saving the universe today, I don’t think I’d help you. You see, I’ve just finished constructing a paradox machine, which makes your silly argument look, what’s the word? Oh, yes. Silly.” He titled his head to one side in a parody of sympathy. “Sorry.”

“You’re joking.”

“Not at the moment.”

“You don't seriously expect me to believe that you’ve actually built a paradox machine.”

The Master smiled and shrugged modestly.

The Doctor gaped. “You have,” he said, eyes bright with something akin to lust. “How incredible. So, you found the flaw in the schematics at last. What was it?”

“Now, now, no copying,” the Master said. “Figure it out for yourself. I’ll show you mine though, if you ask nicely.”

He could see the Doctor was seriously tempted - the impossible paradox machine had been one of their mutual obsessions at the Academy - but then he sighed and shook his head.

“No, I’m sorry. I’d love to, but, given the current circumstances, I think that would be a very bad idea.”

“You never change, do you?” the Master said, falling back into the chair again with a laugh. “Always so boring.”

“You’re lying,” the Doctor retorted. “I know you, Master. You think I’m a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them. This is all beside the point, though. The request was just a courtesy between old enemies. I’m afraid, you are going to help me.”

“Am I really?” the Master said, pouring himself another glass. “I admit I do like it when you make unreasonable demands, but I don’t usually help you, now do I? That’s kind of the point. What makes you think I’m just going to change the habit of eighteen lifetimes?”

“Reason,” the Doctor said. “I find it rarely misleads me. For a start, the universe hasn’t imploded and we aren’t currently being devoured by the reapers. That suggests I’ve fixed the paradox somehow and since this is the only way I could have done so I’m inclined to think you’re just holding out for a higher offer. More importantly, though, Master,” he said, leaning closer again, “I’ve seen the way you react when I say your name.”

The Master choked on a mouthful of scotch. “What?”

“Your name,” the Doctor repeated as if giving a lecture on plant life or sentence structure. “Master. No one here calls you that, do they? They call you Minister, or Mister Saxon, or Harry. No one here knows who you really are, Master, how brilliant you really are, except me. I bet it drives that ego of yours mad. But that’s not it entirely. If they were to call you Master I don’t think you’d really care. It’s me. You like it when I use your name. When I acknowledge you as my Master.” He pointed a finger at the Master’s throat. “See, there it is. The slight in-take of breath. The eye flicker. That’s down to me, isn’t it? Your previous regenerations were much better at hiding it, but it’s always been there.

“I wonder,” he said thoughtfully, “how many more times I would have to say it before you gave me anything I wanted.”

“Let me get this straight,” the Master said, keeping his voice steady despite the treacherous hardening of his cock and the hammering in his head. “You’re attempting to bribe me with my own name. Really? That’s it? Had they run out of suitcases of money by the time you reached the front of the queue?”

“I didn’t ask,” the Doctor said pleasantly. “You should know, Master, that I rarely wait in line for anything. As for saying your name, I’m almost certain it would work eventually, but it doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of fair play. So,” he reached into one of his trouser pockets, removed a small clear tub of colourless jelly and placed it on the desk, “I came prepared with a higher offer.”

The Master raised his eyebrows. “Ah, I’m sorry. Now I understand. You’re attempting to bribe me by offering to have sex with me.”

“Yes,” the Doctor said.

“How desperate do you think I am?”

“Very, I should imagine,” the Doctor said, mildly.

“I have a wife.”

“I know. My other self described her as a beard.”

“What fascinating evenings you must have together,” the Master said with an attempt at scorn. “Please do invite me to the next one. I could bring the cake. Do you have club-days or is a show up when you feel like affair?” But his fingers had already begun to tap out the never-ending drumbeat against the desktop. It always grew louder when he was stressed, when he most needed to think, when he needed to be left alone. He shut his eyes, but the drums continued to pound even in the darkness, louder and louder. Then he felt the Doctor slide into his lap and lift his drumming hand from the table. The Doctor’s fingers were cool and clinical as they eased the tension between his tendons.

“Get off me,” the Master muttered, making a blind and largely perfunctory effort to pull his hand from the Doctor’s.

“Master,” the Doctor said gently, as his thumbs continued to move in firm circles on the Master’s palm. “I can see this is difficult for you. You’re right, this isn’t how it goes, and there’s something else, isn’t there?”

The Master opened his eyes to glower at him, and the Doctor shook his head.

“It’s all right. You don’t have to tell me about that. You don’t have to tell me anything actually, but if you want to talk, I’m quite willing to listen.”

He dropped the Master’s right hand back into his lap and began working on the other as the Master watched him through lowered lids.

“I’ve already asked you to shut off several doors in my mind,” the Doctor continued. “This would have to be one of them. Now, I’m going to need the rest to re-open eventually, but I don’t think this… meeting is essential. I’d like to remember it, obviously. I like to retain all my memories if at all possible, but the decision is ultimately yours. So, will you help me?”

The Master caught the Doctor’s chin with his free hand. “Say my name again,” he said.

The Doctor smiled. “Yes, Master,” he said, scooting forward on the Master’s lap, pressing up against his erection. “Another triumph for reason over briefcases of money.” He leant forward and kissed the Master lightly. He still tasted like lemon and tea behind the rich tang of the scotch. “Master,” he repeated, kissing him again. The Master tried to open his mouth and deepen the kiss, but the Doctor drew back, and raised his eyebrows.

“Fine,” the Master said. “If you want to prostitute yourself for the sake of the universe, fine, you’ve got a deal. Now, why don’t you take your clothes off, like a good boy?”

“Thank you,” the Doctor said, and kissed him again, before sliding off his lap.

The Master stood up awkwardly and half closed the blinds so that the room was criss-crossed with pale lines of light. Then he pressed the intercom button and asked his assistant not to contact him for another hour, or put through any calls, and, on no account, to let anyone up as top secret matters were being discussed and he needed absolute privacy. As he did so, he watched as the Doctor kicked off his trainers and socks; removed his shirt and jumper and folded them unevenly over his chair.

“You have an appointment with the Prime Minister in ten minutes,” the intercom voice reminded him as Master unclipped his cufflinks and placed them on his desk.

Had,” the Master corrected, watching as the Doctor removed the last of his clothes: cream and red striped trousers, incongruous green underwear. “I had an appointment with the Prime Minister. Past tense. Preterit. Simple past. Shouldn’t really be able to miss it.” He loosened his tie, one handed, and pulled it over his head. “This country’s a disgrace. Don’t they teach basic grammar in schools any more?”

Master,” the Doctor began, but the Master put a finger to his lips and indicated the intercom which was still transmitting.

“Quick lesson for you,” he said into it, pointedly ignoring the Doctor, putting him back in his place. “I am going to need a new appointment. We call that the present continuous. By the time we speak again, you will have booked it for me. What’s that? Any ideas?”

“Future.”

“Good start,” the Master said. “Future what?”

“…Tense?”

The Doctor made an exasperated noise which clearly inferred that grammar lessons could wait for another time and the Master glanced up at him without meaning to. He looked beautiful and ridiculous standing in the middle of a Ministry office without the protection of his silly Edwardian cricketer’s uniform, his cock bobbing above the desk’s top, his blonde hair slightly mussed from the static charge of his jumper. Surrounded by the ugly human possessions of her Majesty’s government, he seemed more than usually extraordinary. The only thing in the room worth more than a moment’s attention.

Still fully dressed, the Master gave him a long, slow, lecherous smile, the conversation with his assistant temporarily forgotten. The Doctor glowered at him.

“Minister?” the intercom chirped. “Are you still there?”

“Yes,” the Master said. “Lesson over. Back to Harriet Jones: Prime Minister. I can’t see her today. Totally and completely out of the question. Reschedule the meeting for,” he glanced down at the calendar on his desk, “Thursday. I'm free Thursday.”

The look away seemed to have decided the Doctor, who started round to the other side of the desk. The Master raised his eyebrows quizzically as he said, “Morning or afternoon, I don’t really mind,” but the Doctor merely returned the look as he moved closer. “Her choice,” the Master continued. “We could even go to lunch, I quite- Stop that.”

“Sir?”

“Not you,” the Master said, releasing the intercom button.

“You’ll have to remove your clothes at some point,” the Doctor pointed out, pushing the Master’s jacket off his shoulders. He smiled and added, “Will have. Future perfect,” as he slid his fingers beneath the waistband of the Master’s trousers and tugged his shirt free. “Though my statement isn’t really right. More simple future than future perfect. The future almost-perfect, if you like.”

“Congratulations. Your ‘My first English grammar’ badge is in the post,” the Master sneered. “Don’t expect me to be impressed. I got mine several hundred years ago. And look-” He pushed the Doctor’s hands away from his shirt buttons and pulled the entire garment over his head. “I’m quite capable of undressing myself.”

“Master, please. Let me,” the Doctor said, one hand resting lightly on the Master’s chest. He looked across to the intercom which had started beeping. “Besides, I think your PA has more questions about conjugating irregular verb forms. Perhaps you should answer him before he comes looking for you.” He smiled slightly. “He comes, he came, he will have come-”

“Stop it.”

“Answer the phone then.”

“Sorry, Mister Saxon,” the intercom said, as the Doctor knelt and began unlacing the Master’s shoes, “but I’ve just been told the Prime Minister is already in the building. It would be a lot easier to just send her up, sir. If you could spare five minutes perhaps…”

“No,” the Master said as first his shoes then his socks were eased from his feet. “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. Tell her it’s UNIT business.”

“I see… Sorry, sir, but shouldn’t she sit in on that?”

“Outside her security clearance level,” the Master improvised, trying to keep still and composed as the Doctor carefully unbuttoned his trousers and pulled them down. “If she objects tell her to take the matter up with Doctor Smith. UNIT must be used to apologising for him by now.”

“But-”

Listen,” the Master said, hearing his own voice shudder slightly as the Doctor’s hands returned to his waist, felt their way under the elastic of his boxers and then eased them over his twitching cock. “I’m going to make this very, very simple for you. Harriet Jones so much as knocks on my door in the next hour and you find yourself another job. Clear?”

“Yes, Minister.”

“Good. No calls. No visitors. Definitely no Harriet Jones.”

He released the intercom and took a slow breath in, held it, and let it go. The Doctor was on his feet again now. That made things easier. Everything was going well, very well, so far, but it wouldn’t take much for the drums to resurface. It would be better if he could concentrate.

“So, Harriet Jones is Prime Minister,” the Doctor said thoughtfully. “Harriet Jones… The architect of Britain’s Golden Age, no less. She was one of the more liberal ones, wasn't she.”

“Not that liberal,” the Master said, shoving him back against the wall and kissing him properly for the first time, all tongue and teeth. The Doctor’s nails dug into his back and the Master leant into him so that as much of their skin touched as possible, erections ground together. The Doctor bit down on his bottom lip and the Master had to pull away slightly to stop himself hoisting the Doctor up onto his hips and taking him without preparation, right there against the wall. That wasn’t the plan. It was certainly a viable alternative should the Doctor stick to his usual raison d’être and attempt to foil the original, but it wasn’t the plan.

“You know,” he said, keeping his forehead pressed against the Doctor’s, “in over a thousand years, I don’t think I’ve ever known you this keen. Practically ripping the clothes off me.”

“Well, the universe is about to implode,” the Doctor reminded him. “It seems a shame to hold onto old grudges in the circumstances.”

“Ah yes,” the Master said, looking down at where his hand stroked the Doctor’s thigh. “That bloody paradox. Fortunately,” he continued, tracing up the side of the Doctor’s body until the same hand caressed the Doctor’s jaw, “it seems there’s just enough time for one last fuck with your best enemy.”

The Doctor smiled. “Fortunately, it seems there is,” he agreed, leaning into the hand cupping his face.

The Master rubbed the pad of his thumb across the Doctor’s cheek bone. “Extraordinary,” he murmured, pathetically grateful for whatever force had caused the Doctor’s TARDIS to collide with itself and bring him here for this. He turned the look into a leer. “You’ve got your priorities in order at last.”

The Doctor laughed at that, but the Master could see, now, that his eyes were worried. His own face must have betrayed his surprise and dismay, because the Doctor sighed.

“Oh, Master, I’m sorry-”

“Really. What for?” the Master said dangerously, his hand tightening on the Doctor’s neck. “If you’re having second thoughts you can forget it.”

“I’m not,” the Doctor said. “No, I’m not,” he said, easing the Master’s hand away from his throat. “It’s just that, sometimes, just then, for example, you look so unbearably young.”

And?” the Master said, frowning. “What’s your point? I’m young. You’re young. I’ve looked young before. New body. New speech patterns. New everything. We call that regeneration, Doctor. I do it a lot. Even you’ve managed a few by now. I thought you might have noticed.”

“What I’ve noticed is that you haven’t looked this young since the Academy,” the Doctor said. “But it’s not even just this body or the lack of that stupid, itchy beard. It’s your eyes. You’ve always looked in control, even when your plans were obviously doomed. Now, you look-”

“Young, I know. Young, gorgeous, beard-free.”

“No, I was going to say lost,” the Doctor said, helplessly.

“Right,” the Master said, pushing himself away from the wall and the Doctor. “I see.” He paced back to the desk. “For future reference, gorgeous would have been better there.”

“Master, what happened to you?”

“I died,” the Master said. “Then I got brought back to life to fight in a war and then my entire civilisation was destroyed. Not a great decade. Look forward to that one. But the good thing is, I survived when no one else. I won. And I feel…” he grinned, eyes wide, “great.

Now,” he clapped his hands together, “time to keep your promises. What do you fancy? On the chair or over the desk? I’m more of a desk man myself, but I’m open to suggestions. Chair, desk, there’s that wall of course, or there’s always the floor. I wouldn’t advise it though. The carpet’s covered in these funny prickly bumps. Not nice. Really very uncomfortable, I don’t know what the Ministry were thinking. I am having it replaced, but that won’t be till next week. Still, it’s there if you want it. Take your pick.”

“Hmm?” the Doctor asked, his face heavy with thought. “Oh, you decide. It seems fairly pointless to leave the decision to me, given that I won’t remember it.”

“You’re right, you won’t,” the Master agreed, unscrewing the lubricant cap and squeezing a large quantity into his palms. “But you’ve got at least half an hour until then to express a preference.”

He grasped the Doctor’s cock rather more firmly than he’d intended and watched with pleasure as the other Time Lord’s eyes widened as they had done at the mention of the paradox machine.

“I can’t promise I’ll listen,” the Master continued, stroking him gently now, covering the length of his cock in lube, “but you know how annoyed I get when you pretend you don’t care. So, let’s try again. For that fridge/freezer and once in a life time opportunity, Doctor, your question: Desk, chair, wall, or floor?”

“… Yes, the desk’s fine,” the Doctor agreed, rather weakly.

The Master smiled and released him, reaching instead for the Doctor’s right hand and performing the same service on each of his fingers. “Isn’t it nice that we still share the same interests?” he asked sweetly.

The Doctor gave him a pained look. “Only regarding desks,” he said. He held up his glistening hand. “Would I be right in thinking that you want me to… take you, rather than the other way around?”

“You are. Is that a problem? I assumed a pronounced limp and the inability to sit down for a week without the corresponding recollection of being fucked senseless would alert even you to your memory loss. You also don’t win the fridge, in case you were wondering.”

“I see,” the Doctor said, as the Master turned away from him and braced himself against the desk, both hands firmly gripping the dark metal edge. “That’s… remarkably thoughtful of you.”

“It is, isn’t it?” the Master agreed. “Sometimes I surprise even myself. Now, are you going to get on with this, or shall we just sit back and watch the universe explode together?”

“As long as you’re certain this is what you want,” the Doctor said, wrapping an arm around the Master’s body. The Master felt him kiss the side of his neck, and then the Doctor said, “now, this might hurt” close to his ear.

“Just get on with it,” the Master hissed.

He managed to bite back a gasp as the first finger slid into him, and, though he flinched more than once, he remained silent as the Doctor’s finger stroked and his voice whispered reassurances. Then a second slender finger joined the first, the edge of the nail scraping against the sensitive muscles and this time, despite his best efforts, the Master whimpered.

“All right?” the Doctor murmured against his neck.

“Fine.”

He could feel the Doctor smiling as he said, “It’s always worse the first time. You’ll get used to it.”

“And why,” the Master said thickly, “would I want to do that, Doctor?” The sentence came out roughly in one unbroken string. That was a relief. He was still in control. He breathed in, eyelids fluttering, and tried for another. “I’m only doing this now so you don’t…ah… stumble back into your own paradox… like an idiot.”

“Thank you. I appreciate it,” the Doctor assured him, pushing a third finger in to join the first two.

The Master's vision flickered. “…Wouldn’t want you to have to come back.”

It was a lie, of course. All of it. Lies built on lies. Not even particularly convincing lies at this stage, but the Master was having trouble thinking in his usual complex patterns. Not that it mattered that the Doctor almost certainly didn’t believe in his altruistic intentions. He was doing exactly as he was supposed to.

It had been almost a thousand years ago, but the Master still remembered how, long before he’d taken his real name, he had once allowed Theta to do this to him. He remembered how completely he’d lost control, crying out his lover’s name over and over again as Theta thrust clumsily into him and Theta’s mind tumbled into his own, and how he had always afterwards insisted on fucking rather than being fucked for fear of losing himself again. His current body might be new to the experience, but his mind remembered exactly how that rush of consciousness had felt and so it had formulated this remarkably simple plan.

The memory loss argument was sensible and almost plausible, but ultimately it was only a justification for the unlikely turn of events. As the Doctor presumably suspected, it had always amused and pleased the Master to see him limping away after their illicit trysts. The Doctor’s pain was a physical reminder of what he’d allowed the Master to do to him, and consequentially of the Master’s power over him. The Master would have found it reasonably simple to implant a false memory of a nasty fall in the Doctor’s head had he wished to fuck him today, but then it was possible the Doctor would keep his mind shut as he had done before. If he were forced to take the active role though, that would be cease to be under his control — it was impossible to fully reign in your thoughts when they were so focused on penetration. The Doctor would have to let something through, and the Master was willing to take whatever he could get.

More than physical dominance - more even than the Doctor whom he ached for in any regeneration — the Master wanted, for the first time, to be lost in the thoughts of someone who didn’t wake up every morning to endless drumming in an echoing void. He wanted the awful unremitting hangover to lift for a brief climatic moment so he could think clearly again - if only for a moment. Of course, he would never have allowed himself this weakness at all if there was any chance the Doctor might remember it and use it against him later, but the Doctor wasn’t going to remember. When the Master closed this door in his mind it would remain locked forever.

With a supreme effort of will, he managed not to buck upwards into the Doctor’s fingers as they stroked and stretched and eventually the fingers were withdrawn and the Doctor’s hand settled on the Master’s hip. Even though he was still being held and could feel the Doctor’s warm breath on his neck and the hard tip of the Doctor’s cock pressed between his buttocks, the lack of internal contact set the Master’s head roaring. He felt empty and alone and abandoned all over again, and though he tried to think back on a time when that had been a mere annoyance, the lights had begun to flash behind his eyes and, as the drumbeat rolled into the space, full-blown panic took him easily. No, the Master thought. No, no, no no no no. This wasn’t fair. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be at all. It was actually worse than before. He was the Master, for fuck’s sake, but the drums, the drums, the never ending drums would not stop inside his head, and the Master felt like screaming at the fucking humiliation and injustice of the thing. What was he Master of now? One soggy island on a tiny planet no one except the Doctor had ever heard of. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

“Doctor,” he whispered, his knuckles white over the desk’s edge. “Doctor, this is really not the time-”

“It’s all right,” the Doctor said, soothingly. “I’m here.”

“Then stop fucking about,” the Master hissed, his hearts hammering out of sync with each other, “and just- ah-”

He gasped as the Doctor thrust into him slowly and the drumming finally subsided. “Oh - Good.”

“What was it you were saying?” the Doctor murmured, as he withdrew and then thrust again equally slowly.

“Nothing — important,” the Master said steadily. He felt for the Doctor’s hand on his hip and guided it with his own to his erection. The Doctor’s hand was still slick with lubricant and it slid easily and painfully slowly from the base of the Master’s cock to the end in time with the rhythm of his thrusts. Soon, his memories began to seep through, as the Master had known they would, flicking round the edges of his consciousness. Oh, that was good. That was very good.

Rather gratifyingly, they all seemed to be of his earliest incarnation, accompanied by the Doctor’s childish pleasure in their company back when they had been Theta and Koschei. With every innocent scene of the two of them talking in the library, or racing through the corridors, the Master felt himself gloriously transported back to Gallifrey. But the scenes were too short and too infrequent. The Doctor had superb control over his own thoughts, really remarkable, and his body had settled into a such a languid rhythm that the Master expected he could sustain it for as long as it took for the Master’s body to betray him.

“Faster,” he gasped, hating himself for doing it. “Please. Doctor.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” the Doctor said, his voice thick with concentration.

“Not - my problem,” the Master replied, clutching the desk edge as another memory of himself, young and asleep, accompanied by what felt shockingly like love, slipped through. “I want you, oh fuck, Doctor, I want you, I want you to go faster. Got it? Which of us is in charge here?”

“I was under the impression that it was me,” the Doctor said, removing his caressing hand from the Master’s cock.

Wrong answer,” the Master growled, pulling the hand back into place. “Failed grade. Goodbye universe. Hello oblivion. I said faster, weren’t you listening?”

“As you wish,” the Doctor said, “Master,” and the Master thought he heard laughter in his voice as the tempo of his thrusts and his hand increased.

The Doctor’s memories flew thick and fast now, becoming decidedly less innocent almost at once. The first time they’d kissed, pressed against the wall of their study. That time they’d been late to Astrophysics after a quick grope in Greenhouse 4. The feeling of Koschei’s tongue down his throat and Koschei’s hands on his arse and then - oh, fuck - his lips around his cock. That beautiful, talented mouth around his cock. How good, how amazingly mind-blowingly good that had felt.

As the Doctor gave him the more recent memory of being thoroughly fucked against the wall of his own TARDIS, the Master realised the little shit was letting them through on purpose now. The Doctor’s remembered pleasure was feeding his own. His body had begun to tremble. He was dimly aware that he’d been shouting the Doctor’s name, interspersed with profanity, for some time, though he could remember when that had started and certainly couldn’t stop it. Unless he shut the Doctor out completely, he was going to break first there was no doubt about it. Even though the Doctor wouldn’t remember it, that would never do. He needed to regain control and fast and so he did the only thing he could think of and threw his mind completely open, engulfing the Doctor in a massive feedback loop of his own pleasure.

“Fuck - Master,” the Doctor gasped, and came with that delightful whimper, clutching wildly at the Master’s chest, seconds before the Master’s own orgasm tore through him. For a brief blissful moment, the Master found his own thoughts indistinguishable from the Doctor’s, and then he fell back into his body, shaking with laughter.

“You bastard,” the Doctor panted, as the Master continued to laugh, bonelessly, against him. “You… cheating… bastard.”

Hypocrite. It was good though, wasn’t it?” the Master pointed out, turning his head to kiss the Doctor’s clammy temple. His head felt gloriously clear. Not empty, just clear. The drums were gone and the Doctor’s presence still thrummed within his skin. “Don’t lie, I’ll know. That was good. I’m very, very good.”

“You are a bastard,” the Doctor told him, withdrawing with a wince and pushing the Master gently away so that he fell against the desk. “Incredibly talented, and undoubtedly wonderful in numerous ways, but, above all, Master, you are a bastard.”

The Master smiled lazily and pivoted on one hand to face him. “Oh, Doctor. I do like it when you use my name.”

“Well, Master, if you must know,” the Doctor said, still looking adorably cross, “the feeling’s mutual.” His lips twitched into a smile, then he pressed a quick kiss to the Master’s forehead and went off to find his trousers.

The Master’s sense of euphoria faded as he pulled on his own clothes, but the drumming, when it resumed, remained at a level he could ignore. The Doctor dressed quickly and sat back in the visitor’s chair in front of the desk. He waited without speaking, as the Master clipped his cufflinks into place, adjusted his tie and sat down opposite him on the edge of the desk.

“Ready?” he asked, placing his hands either side of the Doctor’s face.

“Yes.”

The Master frowned in fake concentration. “Now,” he mimicked, “this might hurt.”

The Doctor gave him a pitying look. “Only if you’re doing it wrong,” he said, and the Master grinned and pushed into his mindscape.

If possible, it was even more chaotic than he’d expected. The Doctor’s vision of his mind seemed to have the form of an enormous country manor, its many corridors lined with piles of dog-eared cardboard boxes covered in illegible scrawl.

The drums were absent here and, in the background, the voices of long dead Time Lords chatted away. As they were just echoes in the Doctor’s mind, they were undisturbed by the Master’s sudden appearance and because he was, himself, merely the manifestation of an idea, he heard them just like a human might - with only his physical ears. It was, the Master reflected wryly, like being given a vortex manipulator for your fifth birthday and then being forbidden to play with it in case you accidentally disrupted the space/time continuum. Almost unnecessarily cruel.

Hundreds of sets of stairs branched off the corridors at improbable angles, very like the city he’d built for the Doctor on Castrovalva. Some led out of sight, presumably to still more corridors, whilst others hung unfinished in space as if the Doctor had abandoned those thoughts half way through conception. And, in every surface except the floor, there were thousands and thousands of different sized doors, most of which were hanging open.

Well? Which one is it?” the Master asked the mindscape and, after a moment’s thought, the Doctor’s current self-image flickered and solidified next to him, hands in pockets.

“This way,” he said and strode off down the corridor, coat flapping in an imagined breeze. “I hid it in an area I never think about, behind the works of Samuel Richardson, so it wouldn’t distract me too much.”

They stopped in front of a wall of boxes, more than half of which were marked ‘Clarissa’ in the Doctor’s untidy circles. Through the gaps between the boxes, the Master could just see the interior of the Doctor’s TARDIS as it had looked when he’d stolen it from Malcassairo, and two men dashing around the console.

He pushed the boxes aside with a thought and the doorway became fully visible. Now, he could see there were parts of what looked suspiciously like his paradox machine stacked against one of the far walls. Another thought and the memory acquired sound and the Master watched with amusement as the Doctors insulted and ignored each other.

“You’ve met me,” the Doctor at his side said, indicating his tenth self who was nattering on about celery. “That me, I mean. Do I ever stop talking?”

“I met you very briefly,” the Master said, “less than a day actually, but I’m going to say no. No you don’t. However - and you know it pains me to admit it - he does actually have a point here. Wherever you go, whenever you go, you stick out like an idiot wearing a stick of celery on his anachronistic cricket jacket.”

“I find I get by, which is fortunate given that I’ve never shared your strange interest in absurd disguises.”

“Doctor, you’re wearing celery as an ornament. Get some perspective. You’re also looking very old here. What a waste. I wouldn’t have come if you’d told me. I thought you said this was yesterday.”

“Oh, he shorted out the time differential,” the Doctor’s image remarked, rather scathingly. “Left his shields down for some reason. It was his fault we crashed, you know.”

“I’m sure it was,” the Master said, soothingly. “So, you want this locked, do you? And then to re-open after your meeting like always.”

“Ah, no. Before.”

The Master raised his eyebrows.

“My future self remembered being me watching him,” the Doctor explained, sheepishly. “I couldn’t have worked out the correct TARDIS controls without that memory, so you’d better open it a minute after the younger me arrives.”

The Master shook his head. “You’re getting sloppy, Doctor,” he said as the door swung towards them and clicked shut. “Now, do you want me to lock Clarissa and the others in here with it? There’s still time. Go on. Think of all that space you’d free up for… whatever it is you think about. Celery, cricket, thwarting me.”

“No.”

“Over a desk.”

Master, no. Leave the Richardson alone. I don’t think I could bear to read them again.”

The Master grinned and pressed his hand to the door, which, after a moment, melted back into the wall as if it had never been there. The Master blinked and shook his head, and a late Guardi in a large gilt frame appeared in its place. He chuckled and turned back to the Doctor. “Like Rassilon himself was here. What do you think? Nice, isn’t it?”

“I generally prefer his earlier work,” the Doctor said. “Guardi that is, not Rassilon. But, yes, it’s lovely. Not one I’ve seen before… I’m not entirely sure I understand why it’s there, though. What are we doing here? This is,” he looked around, “eighteenth century English literature, isn’t it? Oh, god, you’re not trying to seduce Pamela again, are you? You know that doesn’t work.”

The Master sighed. “Forget it,” he said and then laughed. “Oh, wait, you already have. What fun. Let’s do some more. Go on, where have you stashed today’s memories?”

The Doctor led him to another corridor that was identical to the first, but marginally cleaner and lined with fewer boxes. The doors here were all open and the Master closed each one as he walked past it. The Doctor’s memory of waking and worrying about the implications of the potential paradox as he made himself tea: shut. The memory of extracting the Master’s last known coordinates from the TARDIS’s cranky hard drive: shut. The memory of walking past an electrical superstore and seeing the Master beaming out at him from dozens of television screens: definitely shut. The final decision, the discussion with that nervous young man about his clothing, the walk up the stairs towards the Master’s office, the picture — Matisse? — on the wall, the Master’s grin, the taste of the scotch, the explanation, the offer, the acceptance: all shut and concealed behind familiar works of art.

The further they walked down the corridor the more out of focus the walls became, as if two almost identical transparencies had been placed over each other and were being nudged gradually out of alignment. The voices of the Time Lords remained at the same volume and were also completely silent. Dark lights sparkled behind the Master’s eyes and the drums seemed to rumble just out of range.

“Let me guess,” the Master said as they approached a dead end marked by a final door. “This is my time again, isn’t it? I can tell. There’s that homey feeling of belonging. Smells like,” he breathed in deeply, “nausea. Just like mother used to make.” He smiled at the Doctor, who looked just as uncomfortable as he felt. “How nice to be back.”

“I don’t know how you stand it,” the Doctor said.

“Strength of character.”

The Doctor smiled. “Yes. How silly of me.” He paused. “Are you… going to be all right after I go?”

The Master pouted. “Oh, are you worried I’ll be crying myself to sleep at night without you? Spare me.”

“Master,” the Doctor said. “Please be serious.”

“I am serious,” the Master said, pulling his serious face, “and I’m always all right. One of the many perks of being evil: you bounce back. That and the dental plan, obviously. Really excellent.”

Master, please-”

What?” the Master snapped. “What do you want from me? I threw everything at you back there, so you already know how not all right I’ll be. I don’t get it. Are you just taunting me? I taunt you, you taunt me. Revenge: Old Testament style. Why ask if you already know?”

“A courtesy between old enemies,” the Doctor said, quietly. “I decided, wrongly perhaps, that you’d prefer not to be reminded how much I knew.”

The Master shook his head. “Forget it.”

“Do you want me to stay? I could, you know. For a while anyway.”

“No, of course not,” the Master said sharply. “You’d be sure to try and interfere with my plan to subjugate the Earth. I can’t have that. I’ve put fifteen months of work into it already. Besides, remember that giant paradox- Ah, no, of course you don’t, but the answer’s still no. Not really interested. Sorry. Go back to where you came from. I’ll be far from all right, I expect, but as the saying goes: No rest for the wicked. I’m pretty sure that includes me.” He paused. “Who said that? No rest for the wicked?”

The Doctor opened his mouth to answer and the Master waved a hand. “No, don’t bother. I’d only track them down and bludgeon them to death if you told me.” He indicated the final doorway, which had been flickering between two points an inch apart and now settled as the Doctor’s eyes moved to it. “Shall we?

Without waiting for a reply, he stepped forward towards the door. Through it he could see his own office as if from the doorway. The Master tilted his head to one side and inspected the silent memory of himself with mild disgust.

“It’s strange, but I always feel like a voyeur watching myself have sex,” the Doctor remarked from behind him. “Not that I watch myself having sex very often,” he added. “That’s probably what makes it feel strange now… Mind you, what’s stranger is that I can’t remember at all how we ended up here. Was it interesting?”

“No,” the Master said, frowning. “Not really. This was very much the most interesting part. It loses something in the retelling, though. Dignity, mainly.”

He was about to close the door when the memory suddenly acquired sound and his own voice, almost incoherent with passion, rang out through the corridors, “ohDoctorfuckyesharderpleaseDoctorfuckyesDoctor”.

It was mortifying, unbearable, and the drums were definitely closer now. The Master’s lips curled into a sneer as, in the memory, the Doctor did as he was told and thrust harder. In the corridor of his mind, the Doctor’s arms slid around the Master’s waist as if they were young lovers watching fireworks on a cold night. His chin rested on the Master’s shoulder, his long hair tickling against the Master’s neck. Then, incredibly, he actually laughed as if the whole thing was somehow funny.

“Oh Master, you have no idea how difficult it was to hold back with you screaming my name,” he said, his lips brushing the Master’s ear, his fingers beginning to undo the Master’s fly button. “It transpires that I’m completely in your thrall as always.” His hand slid under the waistband of the Master’s boxers. “I really wish I wasn’t-”

“Then get off me,” the Master growled, catching the Doctor’s wrist before it could go any further. His own voice continued mercilessly, “ohDoctorohfuckDoctor,” as the drums grew louder still, feeding on his humiliation and despair.

“I’m sorry?” the Doctor said, apparently too surprised to remove his hand.

Get off me, Doctor.”

“Master, I-”

“I said, get off me,” the Master repeated, his voice strangled as he fought to breathe and to pull away from the Doctor who still seemed to be too close, far too close. He reached for the door handle with his mind and felt it slam into his grasp. Finally, the screaming stopped and, panting with relief, the Master let the door melt back into the wall.

The Doctor was staring at him when he turned around.

“Master?” he asked, frowning. “It is you, isn’t it? No beard this time. It suits you. Do you mind if I ask what you’re doing in my mindscape… with your trousers open?”

“Try not to worry about it,” the Master said, attempting a smile as he buttoned his flies with shaking fingers. “The trousers thing is a misunderstanding. I’m just altering your memories.”

“You’re what?”

Altering your memories,” the Master repeated slowly. “At least try to pay attention, Doctor. I hate repeating myself. You asked me to, by the way. Not that it matters.”

The Doctor folded his arms “Did I?” he asked in a tone that implied that he most certainly had not. “Are you sure that’s the best you can come up with? It doesn’t sound like something I’d do.”

“And yet you did,” the Master snapped. “You came to me for help. Me. It’s just possible, isn’t it? Just about possible. And if it is, there must have been a reason. Something so awful you asked me in here. Oh dear. Big dilemma. And time’s ticking away. So what if I’m not telling the truth? The question is: are you willing to risk it?” The Doctor’s righteous indignation wavered and the Master raised his eyebrows. “No?”

The Doctor sighed and shook his head. “Go ahead.”

“Good. Oh, and don’t bother with gratitude,” the Master said. “It went out of fashion with platform trainers. What a mistake those were. Now, you’ll need to stop paying attention to me, before I can finish. Go back to your body. I’ll be done in a minute.”

“I'm sorry. Thank you... for whatever it is.”

“I said, don’t bother,” the Master said, wearily. “We had a deal. That’s it. Go back to your body.”

He turned to examine the wall where the door into his office had been. The drums were gone again now it was locked. It was already as if he had never opened his mind at all. The Master sighed and pressed a hand to the imaginary wallpaper.

“Master," the Doctor said behind him. "Are you all right?”

“Peachy,” the Master said, swinging back round with a smile. “Thanks for asking. Now, you should really leave me to work.”

The Doctor’s image seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then he nodded once and vanished.


*

“Of course, the Em-oh-Dee is more than happy to defer to UNIT on all matters regarding extraterrestrial contact,” the man said, turning from the window to look at the Doctor. “It’s just that ‘the Christmas Star’, as we’re calling it, seemed to me to present an immediate threat and I was forced to take action.” His smile flared quickly. “I’m sure you understand.”

“Of course,” the Doctor said, though he didn’t because he wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. He knew he was inside the Ministry of Defence, because he recognised the coasters and the view out of the window, but right at this moment — it was very strange — but right at this moment, he couldn’t remember how he’d got there or who he was speaking to.

“Good,” the man said and gave another wide unconvincing smile which flickered into a wince as he sat in the chair opposite the Doctor and then reinstated itself.

“By the way, I apologise if I was rude when you arrived,” he continued and the Doctor remembered suddenly that he was Harold Saxon, Minister for Defence, and that this was his office. “I assumed Lethbridge-Stewart must have sent you and he only ever wants to talk to me about the world ending. The man’s so dull. Last time he called, I tried to suggest a bowling trip after the missile launch. Not interested. Actually accused me of not taking things seriously.”

“Ah,” the Doctor said. “Yes, I’ve often observed that the Brigadier can be quite single minded when the world is ending. Come to think of it, that might be why he’s still alive.”

Harold Saxon grinned, more genuinely than before. “Perhaps. Still, I’m sure that holiday in Peru will do him a world of good. Who knows, he might even spend a whole five minutes thinking about Incas instead of aliens.”

“I’m sure he will… though not perhaps five consecutive minutes,” the Doctor said, remembering, as he did so, that he had tried to visit the Brigadier’s house that morning in order to congratulate him on his knighthood and found it empty. This was what had prompted him to call in at UNIT headquarters where they’d told him about Peru and asked if he’d be willing to talk to Mr Saxon about his inconsistent policies regarding UNIT, which was why he was here now, so that was fine. For some inexplicable reason, he also remembered that something Tegan had said at breakfast the day before had reminded him of an amusing passage in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. He had then spent the rest of the day re-reading the novel in the library stacks, which explained why his companions had been unable to find him until this morning. Having remembered this, he promptly forgot that he’d ever not remembered it. What an odd thing memory was.

With some difficulty, he steered the Minister away from a dissection of the Brigadier’s manners and back onto the serious rise in MoD interference in UNIT affairs over the last fifteen months. Saxon denied nothing, pointing out in each case how many people had been saved by his quick responses, and when he finally said “all right, I promise I’ll leave the space invaders to your UNIT boys, happy?” the Doctor felt certain he’d done so simply because he was now bored with the conversation.

“I have your word that you won’t try to interfere again with issues that clearly fall within UNIT’s jurisdiction?”

“For what it’s worth, you do,” Saxon said. He pulled one of the folders off the pile, opened it and selected a ball point pen from the organiser on his desk: every action one of dismissal. “And now, Doctor Smith, I hope you’ll excuse me, but I should really be getting back to work.”

“Of course. In fact, I should really do the same,” the Doctor said. He stood and collected his coat and hat from the stand. “No rest for the wicked, eh, Minister?”

Mr Saxon’s left eyelid twitched as he smiled. “That’s what I always say,” he agreed. His thumb clicked the pen top down rhythmically, clickclickclick click. “Close the door on your way out, will you?”